Whew, so the past few weeks the been brutally busy.
After much soul searching and research, research, and more research, I have finally decided to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector as a grant writer. Making this decision has been only a small part of the work involved in my alt-ac transition period, though. I’ve also had to realize a few difficult things are necessary to my success outside of the academy.
One of them is taking on unpaid work in order to built my resume and professional network.
When I first thought about volunteering or interning for nonprofit organizations, I figured the process would be easy. I mean, it’s unpaid work! How hard can it be to get?
Ugh. Let me tell you, the process has required some serious revamping of my professional materials, which means creating a tailored resume and cover letter for each position. Some will even require a writing sample!
After an endless string of unanswered submissions, I finally got serious and did three main things. Honestly, I’m pretty sure these things helped me finally land three awesome opportunities in nonprofit development and grant writing!
- Talk to a career advisor: Initially, I was using my non-academic buddy to proofread all of my materials, which was helpful. However, after submitting a few materials that went unanswered I realized that a career advisor might be a better way to go since they specialize in writing resumes, tailoring cover letters, and pinpointing important aspects of job descriptions. If you go to Texas A&M, send your questions to Dr. Katie Stober at TAMU Career Services! Her guidance has been invaluable during my transition period.
- Create a notable social media presence and network: One of the most important aspects of finding career opportunities is networking, and it’s difficult to do that when you’ve been cloistered in The Ivory Tower for the past seven years! During my research, I’ve found it immensely helpful to build my Linked In profile and conduct informational interviews with people who specialize in my new career path. It’s generally best to look up people with some relation to your school or interests since this typically ensures a quick and helpful response to your message. Also, once you pinpoint a specific company or organization you’d like to work for, connect and network with them on every social media platform possible. After informal networking, a concise introductory e-mail will help set you apart from other candidates! As a general rule, it’s a losing battle to submit applications without networking. People want to hire people they know and trust, so network like crazy!
- Register on at least three job websites in your new sector: Since I focused on internships and volunteer positions in the nonprofit sector, my research led me to Idealist.org, Catchafire.org, and Internships.com. Create a focused profile on these sites with material from your resume and begin searching! Save any jobs that catch your eye and make sure to note both the deadline for applying as well as the materials they require. While most will only ask for a resume and cover letter, some request a writing sample that fits the job description. Taking note of these requirements early will give you ample time to prepare your submission materials before the deadline.
What issues or questions are you confronting during your transition period out of academia?